Month: December 2014

The starving artist’s guide to fine wining and dining

Celebration (detail) by Ursula Kelly
Celebration (detail) by Ursula Kelly

Gallery and event openings are fabulous! Aside from a chance to look at exquisite art and rubbing shoulder’s with the celebrated and gorgeous, there’s free nosh and booze!

This fantastic untapped resource for the ravenous artist is regularly available and generally free of charge. More atmospheric than Govinda’s and infinitely more entertaining than the local soup kitchen, it provides an edgy element of risk to keep the hungry artist on their toes.

Let’s see how it works and what strategies need to be adopted to be a successful exhibition grazer.

Preparation and arrival

It’s important to make a good initial impression. Best to dress slightly up. That’s not to say that paint splatters are out – they help conceal wine stains, however a small concession to other’s comfort will help you blend in. Godliness may not be one of your priorities, however cleanliness will always get you through the front door. Try not to be too on the nose. Strong fragrances (eau de whisky for example) may find you removed from the premises before your hunger is sated. If you wish to stand out and make a stunning statement on entry – be warned – all eyes will be on you, and your sojourns to the wine bar will be noted. We recommend a subtle approach – arty, but not too creative. You don’t want to be a conversation starter, and you shouldn’t be too memorable. This will detract from your ability to hover. To sum up, be clean, discreet, not too whiffy and wear a patterned outfit. Avoid pre opening lubrication – staff will frown on stumbling entrances.

Solo grazingWining-and-dining

There is an art to ambling casually towards the person wielding the hors d’oeuvre tray while ostensibly eyeing the latest magnificent work by someone you aren’t quite familiar with. Famished, you should attempt to conceal the eagerness in your eyes and accept the spring rolls graciously before marching off to devour them in private without leaving tell tale signs down your shirt front or whiskers (although they do make a handy midnight treat to savour later on). Try to target different purveyors of snacks throughout the opening. If you become too attentive, you will be noticed and possibly avoided later on. Make as if you are unaware of the approaching tray and appear delighted, surprised and appreciative when it arrives. Ponder your choice and make it clear you are not starving – you are considering the art, and the food is a compliment to the experience. If the event incorporates a spread on a table, try not to hover. Meandering is preferred. A good strategy is, 5 minutes viewing, 2 minutes meandering concluding with a sweep of the table. Try not to bend too low to inspect what’s on offer – if you accidentally pick up something not to your liking, discreetly pop it down on a serviette at the end of the table.


Should you find friends or fellow artists and are caught in a passionate discussion, the challenge becomes a little tricker. You may find yourselves outside the nibble tray flight path, and no amount of gesticulating is going to help. To add to the pain, people will probably join your group and tell you to try the tasty dip – this will only serve to frustrate and further increase the hunger pangs. The best strategy is to make noises about wanting to have a closer look at one of the artworks and return to solo grazing.


Be careful when selecting nibbles. Think ahead of all potential pitfalls. For example, some curry puffs may be delicious, filling and help to sustain you between mouthfuls, however remember – the pastry will be flaky (crumbs down front) and the centres may be excruciatingly hot (awkward gagging motion as you burn your mouth). Exhibition openings require a minimum of decorum and the regurgitating or projecting of overheated mouthfuls of food are frowned upon. These tasty morsels should be discreetly deposited in pockets or handbags to be enjoyed later. Likewise, be wary of anything that looks larger than a comfortable mouthful. There is nothing more uncomfortable than standing in front of a group of people, attempting to bite through an oversized piece of tomato on bruschetta when the tomato won’t yield to your teeth. It also makes for a humiliating moment when you find the sides of your cheeks are protruding to accommodate said bruschetta crammed in it’s entirety into your mouth. Aim small and compact, low temperature and not likely to ooze or drip. Beetroot dip may make a fetching addition to a Ken Done tie (and also a delicious snack to be nibbled on later), however pesto may not compliment it so well – consider colour coordination before consuming. Watch out for parsley and flakes of green matter – even if you are a fan of rabbit feed, be cautious as no one will tell you if it finds it’s way onto your front teeth. Make sure you have a strategy for olive pips and toothpicks – shoving them in your pocket or bag wrapped in a serviette works as a temporary fix, but don’t forget you put them there – they make unwelcome surprises further down the track – particularly when sneezed into.


The general rule of thumb for an event is that there will probably be a choice of juice, white or red wine, bubbly or beer. If your poison of choice is spirit-based or only available from your special ‘friend’ in the outer suburbs, be prepared for disappointment. Depending on the venue the quality will range, from Chateaux Clearskin through to some fabulous $15 drops. Once again, try not to be conspicuous. I can’t emphasise enough how stumbling can ruin your evening. Only request one glass at a time. Even suggest that they don’t fill it to the brim (it very rarely is anyway). The person serving will take note and assume you are going to be well behaved. Pace yourself as the evening progresses, and don’t forget to graze – this will keep the alcohol in your system under control. Be aware of your gait. If you find you are wobbling, choose a comfortable position in a corner and cling onto the walls until it subsides. If you have forgotten to wear patterned clothing, make sure you drink bubbly or white wine – the other drops will leave stains – no one wants Les Patterson wobbling towards them. Avoid singing and dancing – unless someone else starts first. Table top or pole dancing is a definite no.

Final note

To conclude – make sure you don’t talk to anyone you’re trying to impress towards the end of the evening – best to ensure all small talk and chit chat happens at the beginning. Do not stand in front of artwork if you find yourself swaying. Definitely do not try to analyse or appraise anyone’s art at this point – save it for your own edification when you get home and share with non-arty friends. Ensure you are not the last to leave, and in the unlikely event of being evicted – be gracious and apologetic. You will want to be able to come back next month!